WAPPINGER – Some of the wealthiest people in the world land their private planes at Dutchess Airport in Wappinger. But the small rural facility doesn’t even have a place to eat.
Despite a marked increase in traffic and fuel sales since last year, Dutchess Airport still has an annual operating deficit of roughly $700,000.
$700,000 deficit, and no place to eat
Officials discussed the airport’s future at a meeting of the Dutchess County Airport Advisory Committee inside the terminal building Wednesday afternoon. In this waning recession, the tiny percentage of wealthy residents who own private aircraft prompted some committee members to question whether having an airport is worthwhile.
“Government is in the business of providing service, and the airport is a piece of our government,” said former County Legislator Sandra Goldberg. “There is no other department in county government that is expected to pay for itself. I don’t know how you can make people understand that this is a service of government – just like social services or health.”
“Our airport is set up as an enterprise fund, so that it’s supposed to appear like a business,” explained Robert Balkind, deputy county public works commissioner. “It’s a weird mentality. In government, if you broke even in every department, you wouldn’t have any taxes. We don’t have water and sewer here; that’s a huge issue to promote growth here at the airport. Without fire protection, nobody is in a position to build a facility, insure it, and park jet aircraft in it.”
“We need to partner up with private entities to produce infrastructure that we’ll be part of,” Balkind said. “That is the limiting factor right now.”
Operations fall under the control of County Executive Marcus Molinaro and the county legislature. Molinaro is in the process of conducting a financial analysis and review of the airport. The draft report with preliminary recommendations is expected next month.
“We’re going to be looking at bringing the airport in a direction based on dollars and cents; that’s the bottom line,” Balkind told the advisory committee.